The writer of this rubric hereby dedicates himself to the weighty task and calling to expound the Word of the LORD as it came to Israel by the hand of Malachi. It is with prayerful dependence upon the Lord and upon His Spirit of truth that we make this beginning. May both this writer and the readers experience that this God-inspired prophecy is indeed profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction in righteousness, that the man of God be throughly furnished unto every good work!
That we set ourselves to this task of writing on one of the prophecies of the Old Testament is according to the suggestion made on the meeting of the Editorial Staff in June, 1963, that the undersigned should consider so doing. We were assured that it was the feeling of the Editors that such did not conflict with the rubric assigned to Rev. B. Woudenberg, entitled “A Cloud Of Witnesses.” Having considered the matter duly, we made a diligent study of the book of Malachi and, as we stated before, we now make a beginning.
That we write on this particular prophecy is for good reason. Malachi is the last book in the Old Testamentcanonical books of the Bible. It was admitted into the collection of Biblical writings by the church of the Old Testament at least two centuries before the birth of Christ; at the time of the translation of the Old Testament Scriptures into the Greek Septuagint this was the case. The Hebrews have a somewhat different order of the books of the Old Testament Scriptures than we do. They count 24 books where we count 39 books. They have a Tripartite Division. (1) the Torah, or Law; (2) the Nebhi-im, or Prophets; (3) theKethubhim, or Writings. The first of these counts the first five books of our Bible; the second division, eight books, the so-called former and latter prophets; the third division has eleven books. To this third division belongs also the prophecy of Malachi. It is the last and closing book of the Canons also in the Hebrew three-part division. And it is for that reason rather culminative in character, looking backward as a resume and interpretation of the history of Israel in the light of God’s Covenant faithfulness, and looking forward to the dawn of the New Testament dispensation, when the promise of God shall be fulfilled, and the meaning of Israel’s existence in the Old Testament dispensation shall come to stand forth in bold relief. It will exhibit very clearly that all is the glory of Israel and the hope of the Gentile world to be saved. For the Scriptures foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles too by faith, preached before to Abraham saying, “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” This is brought into distinct and sharp focus here in the prophecy of Malachi. It is for this reason that we feel, that as a beginning of interpretation of Old Testament prophecy, we can do no better than stand in the vantage-point of this last Seer in Israel! For from this mountain-top of prophecy we see not only the past history of Israel’s falling and rising for sixteen centuries; but we also have the beacon-light of prophecy which shines forward through the New Testament unto the perfect day of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall save all His people from their sins.
There is still another reason for our writing on the book of Malachi. This prophetic book is one which is interpreted to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. He tells us that the “reconstitution” of which we read in Malachi 4:6 is already completed through the preaching of John the Baptist, Matt. 17:11. We know from the announcement of the birth of John to Zacharias, his father, that the preaching of John would be the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children; it would be making ready a people for the Lord. They would fit in the temple-worship of God. That was the fulfillment of Malachi 4:6. Besides, such passages in Malachi as Malachi 1:2, 3 are interpreted by Paul in Romans 9:1-13; and thus we see the connection between the prophecy of Malachi and the writings of the Word of God from Genesis on, as well as its connection with the work of Christ in saving “all Israel,” Rom. 11:26. In a word, the prophecy of Malachi is most perspicuous in its message for us, the Israel of God in the New Testament dispensation! So much by way of giving the reasons for choosing to write an exposition of this particular prophecy. It will, no doubt, serve a useful purpose that we make a few introductory observations concerning the content of this prophecy itself. We realize that we have inadvertently touched upon this matter already in the foregoing paragraphs. However, let us now still attend to the following facets of this prophecy. In the first place, we notice that this prophecy is a “burden” of the LORD. It is an authoritative word which the prophet must speak in God’s stead and as being His mouth-piece. This is reflected in the oft-repeated “Saith” the LORD. This is designated by the prophet more than twenty times in these four chapters. It emphasizes that this is not the private word of the prophets, but the “burden,” the message which he brings as being the LORD’S mouthpiece, His messenger. Possibly that is why this book is called “Malachi.” It is the Hebrew for “My Messenger.” The title may then refer to the contents of the book, particularly to its hopeful message concerning the coming of John, the fore-runner of Christ, the Messenger spoken of by the prophet in Isaiah 40:3-5. Compare Mark 1:2, 3 where the Evangelist seems to blend into one both Malachi 3:1 andIsaiah 40:3. In the second place, we would observe that there is repeated mention made of the LORD of hostsin this Book of prophecy. This occurs no less than twenty-three times. This gives a very significant emphasis to the fact. that He is JEHOVAH of hosts, Who dwells between the cherubim in His holy temple, and who dwells with His people in Covenant fellowship and faithfulness, protecting the Israel of God from all her enemies, and leading them on to the final glory of the New Jerusalem, when the tabernacle of God shall be with man. Compare Psalm 84, where the Name is mentioned four times.
In the third place, we should observe carefully thenature of the sins which are here rebuked by the LORD. The sins here are not the sins which are due to the weakness of the flesh, which is in the members of the True Israel of God, which Israel has a delight in the law of God after the inward man (Rom. 7:22); but they are the sins of those who have the earmarks of being haters of God. The former sought the courts of the Lord, and spoke of the tabernacles of God being “lovely” (Psalm 84:1), while these snuff at the sacrifices of the LORD, count them a burden, defile the temple by trampling its ordinances under foot. This is evident from the strong terms employed by the prophet to describe their attitude, such as: “abomination, polluted bread, despised my name, profaned the table of the LORD, accounting the Lord’s table contemptible, departing out of the way, stumble at the law.” These are all the strongest terms, employed to describe those who are of a reprobate mind, who walk in the sin unto death, denying the LORD who redeemed Israel from all her sins. Such are they who walk in the sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. Of this the repeated refrain is so often heard in I Kings and II Kings. It is the sin which is mentioned in II Kings 17:14: “Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.” And for this sin they were carried away and removed forever. Thus we read of Ephraim in II Kings 17:14: “Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.” Such is the sin here reproved in these desecraters of the temple who had returned from Babylon with the remnant according to election under Zerubbabel. The same lot will be to those in Judah who are later called by John “Ye generation of vipers,” and denominated by Christ “This generation.” It is well that we keep this in mind when we read this Book of prophecy.
There is, as we have intimated earlier, also another side to this book of prophecy. It is that the Lord is faithful to His covenant promise to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the LORD. He is the unchangeable God. And there is hope of redemption for the true Israel of God. And this true Israel of God is from both Jews and Gentiles according to this “burden” of the LORD. Notice the following:
1. The LORD’S name shall be great among the Gentiles; there will the pure sacrifices of the LORD be brought, even from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same. Malachi 1:11
2. The LORD himself will come to His temple, and cleanse it from all abuse and profanation. The zeal of the LORD will perform it. The zeal of God’s house will consume Him.
3. And, therefore, the godly can take hope, and cleanse themselves, and look for the Lord to come to redeem them and to “restore all things” to Israel. Great and better things are in store. One almost hears the solemn and beautiful sentence here in Malachi written in Hebrews 1:1: “God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son . . .”
Malachi is truly the last prophet in the Old Testament dispensation; He is the last before John the Baptist. John was the greatest of them all, for he pointed out the Lamb of God. But John, the greatest of those born from woman, stands immediately on the shoulders of Malachi. The latter in turn sums up all that the prophets have spoken before him. And so we have here a fitting close of the words of the prophets till the time appointed of the Lord.
In our exposition of this prophecy we hope to call attention to the following facets in it, treating it under the following heads:
1. The Sovereign Love of the LORD for Jacob in distinction from Esau. Malachi 1:1-5
2. The house of Levi, the Priests, reproved for their contempt of the LORD’S house. Malachi 1:6-2:17
3. The announcement of the coming of John the Baptist, and the coming of the LORD, Christ, to His Father’s house, the temple. Malachi 3:1-4:6
Since, in a sense, we will be feeling our way in our development of these three facets of this prophecy, we ask the patience of the reader when reading our essays. It is ever a heavy task, and truly a “burden” of the Lord to rightly divide the Word. May we be a workman that needeth not be ashamed; may our work stand the test in that day when every man’s work shall be tried as by fire.